I think it’s about time we break out those trumpets and drums for a really good reason this time as the Indian 3G revolution has finally taken another step forward. The Indian government has finally decided to allot 3G spectrum to the winning bidders and that’s a big deal for us users waiting in the sidelines impatiently. The seven winners were – Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, Vodafone Essar, Aircel, STel and Tata Teleservices. If your operator is not included, tough!
Now, if you’re wondering what all this means, it’s actually good news to an extent. With the spectrum being allotted to the winning bidders, we should expect 3G services to kick in by the end of this year. Within the next five years these providers and others, offering 3G services to customers will have to cover a minimum of 90% of the service areas in the metro areas. Even with an amount that reached the Rs 67,700 crore mark, none of the operators were able to get pan-India 3G coverage.
According to reports the operators were awarded 5Mhz of spectrum in each winning circle. Three slots were auctioned in 17 circles, while four slots were on block in five circles. If these operators are unable to get the services up and running in time, extensions will be provided but only after they dole out 2.5 per cent of the spectrum acquisition charge per quarter. A good way to ensure they keep to the deadline. If two companies decide to merge services, only one slot of spectrum can be retained. The operators will also have to pay the upward revised spectrum usage charges ranging between three and eight per cent, depending on the quantity of spectrum held by them.
The Rs 67,700 crore question for the consumer is, how soon, in real time, can we start actually using full fledged 3G services in India? I’m willing to forget about what the plans will be like, for the moment, as long as we have a definitive date of the service kicking in.